A Port Pirie firefighter is taking a step forward on behalf of emergency servicemen and women suffering from post traumatic stress by raising funds and awareness through a 42 kilometre beach walk.
Jonathan Knowles, alongside a team of firefighters and about 400 other walkers started at Seacliff at 6 am on Saturday, July 27 and walked the marathon-length walk to Largs Bay as part of the annual SmartBar Australia Walk for a Veteran with PTS
The walk has grown from what was three walkers, to nearly 400 walkers and Mr Knowles, with the inspiration of his drill squad PT decided to support the push to raise awareness for those in the emergency services who too experience PTS. He says that many of his colleagues and those in other areas have not spent a day in a war-torn country yet are suffering from the trauma that comes along with their service. "I have friends in the military who have not seen a day of war but have served in a humanitarian context and have been exposed to horrific traumas. "One was an asylum seeker boat that burst into flames, he didn't have the resources that he needed as a first responding medic to save everybody. He had to triage young children and parents of young children out of saving them. That was very difficult for him to do and haunts him on a regular basis," he said.
Mr Knowles reflects on the growth of the emergency services in encouraging their members to speak out about their experiences, saying the 'cup of cement' attitude is no longer accepted. "We talk about holistic health, if you are experiencing trauma to your body you go and see a doctor about it, they treat it and you get it fixed. It is the same with mental health. We have introduced a number of safe guards against that and we have really good peer program in the fire service. "We have a lot more open dialogue than we used to. The old school mantra of a 'cup of cement', that just doesn't fly anymore. All the guys know that. I feel comfortable to be vulnerable around my peers here on the station," Mr Knowles said. Each kilometre participants walk honours a life lost in operation in Afghanistan, yet as they do that, the money raised by each team goes towards funding assistance dogs to be trained to help with physical and mental illness situations for current and ex-servicemen. The team of firefighters have set themselves a target of reaching $3,000 but have already raised $2,500.